If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing beats an in-person art encounter. 

This May, London’s art scene is taking on a life of its own, with a triple dose of creative excitement. Following the recent Photo London, London Craft Week, and the second edition of London Gallery Weekend – the city is bursting with creative happenings. 

Whittling down your London art exhibitions to-see list is rarely easy, even in the quieter months on the art calendar. But we’ve saved you the trouble with an ongoing guide to the art must-sees, in London and around the UK. 

  • London art exhibitions

Oak Collection
The Design Museum
Until 25 May

yellow patek watch
The Patek Philippe Réf. 570J ’One of A kind’, a highlight of the exhibition 

For the first time, a vast collection of privately-owned watches, collected over four decades, will be going on display at the Design Museum. The exhibition encompasses 160 museum-quality vintage and modern watches as well as ultra-rare special editions. A generous collection of Patek Philippe models form part of the exhibition, including that of late banker and railroad tycoon Henry Graves Jnr, who commissioned 39 watches from the brand, five of which are included here. Other highlights include Patek Philippe commissions created exclusively for the collector – Patrick Getreide – as well as rare handcrafted pieces. A large area of the exhibition is also dedicated to his Rolex collection, on show alongside pieces from independent brands including Francois-Paul Journe and Kari Voutilainen.

Writer: Hannah Silver

designmuseum.org

Boo Saville: ‘Ma’ 
TJ Boulting 
Until 11 July  

Installation view of Boo Saville: ‘Ma’ at TJ Boulting. Photography: Tom Carter

Boo Saville’s new show is all about in-betweenness: literally, figuratively, and experientially. Its title, ‘Ma’ relates both to motherhood, and is also the Japanese term describing an intentionally negative space that harbours its own significance. Seamlessly-rendered colour-field canvases and detailed drawings chart Saville’s reflections on motherhood and her experience of involuntary childlessness. Though deeply personal and profound, she presents space for universal contemplation on these themes; all their melancholy, agony, joy and cultural complexity. 

Ghada Amer: ‘My Body My Choice’; 
Remy Jungerman: ‘Fault Lines’
Goodman Gallery
Until 28 May 

From Ghada Amer’s show ‘My Body My Choice’ at Goodman Gallery, London 

Goodman Gallery is currently offering simultaneous shows by two very different artists. In the main gallery space is the strikingly timely exhibition ‘My Body My Choice’, Ghada Amer’s first solo show in London in twenty years. The exhibition brings together new work, including Amer’s signature thread and canvas paintings as well as sculptures and a garden installation. Elsewhere, viewers find Afro-Dutch artist Remy Jungerman’s ‘Fault Lines’ – his first presentation in the UK – which explores the destabilisation of Western art historical narratives through geometric patterns and cross-cultural references. 

Jeff Wall 
White Cube Mason’s Yard 
Until 25 June 2022;
Andreas Gursky
White Cube Bermondsey
until 26 June 2022

Installation view of Jeff Wall White Cube Mason’s Yard, until 25 June 2022 © Jeff Wall. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis)

With Jeff Wall at its Mason’s Yard gallery and Andreas Gursky in Bermondsey, White Cube is going all out when it comes to trailblazers of the photography world. While Wall is showing his recent ‘near documentary’ images, new photographs from Gursky focus on global capitalism and the ‘essential commonality’ of contemporary life.

Writer: Sophie Gladstone 

Larry Bell: New Work
Hauser & Wirth 
Until 30 July 2022

‘Larry Bell. New Work’, Hauser & Wirth London, 13 May–30 July 2022, Photography: Alex Delfanne, © Larry Bell, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Larry Bell is one of the most iconic artists to surface from the 1960 LA art scene. At Hauser & Wirth London, Bell is presenting brand-new works from his perspective-altering Deconstructed Cube series and his Open Box series, which are set to immerse viewers in a sea of geometry, colour, illusion and optical magic. 

Cristina Iglesias
Gagosian, Davies Street 
Until 30 July 

Cristina Iglesias, Growth I, 2018, Casted aluminium and solid glass with pigments. © Luis Asin for Cristina Iglesias Studio. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian
Cristina Iglesias, Growth I, 2018, Casted aluminium and solid glass with pigments. © Luis Asin for Cristina Iglesias Studio. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

From inner cities to remote landscapes, Cristina Iglesias’ horizontal fountains, submerged rooms and tropical mazes involving literature, architecture, geology and botany create immersive spaces that muse on the relationship between humans and nature. For her first show at Gagosian gallery, Iglesias is presenting her Entwined and Growth series, dense cyborg accumulations of foliage cast in aluminium and studded with coloured glass. 

‘Lee Miller: Nurses’
The Fitzrovia Chapel
Until 5 June

Surgical Gloves are sterilised and dried on stands, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, England, 1943, by Lee Miller

Photojournalist, Surrealist, model, fashion photographer, and war correspondent – Lee Miller is nothing short of a 20th-century icon. A lesser-known, but no less remarkable facet of Miller’s career is her documentation of nursing in Europe during the Second World War, now on display at The Fitzrovia Chapel, curated by Hannah Watson. With potent connections to our current turbulent times, the images celebrate nurses’ essential work alongside moments of everyday life and tragedy. 

Exhibition: Damien Hirst ‘Natural History’
Location: Gagosian, Britannia Street
Dates: ongoing

Damien hirst gagosian best london art exhibitions
Damien Hirst: ’Natural History’, installation view, 2022. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2022. Photography: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Courtesy Gagosian

‘Natural History’, spanning 30 years of Hirst’s greatest hits in formaldehyde-preserved animals, is prime-cut Hirst: unflinching and notorious. Through saggy-eyed sharks, bowel-like sausages, flayed innards, six-limbed cows, miscellaneous fish, upside-down sheep and Hunterian Museum-esque jarred organs and the most startling diorama of all: The Beheading of John the Baptist (2006), the show is a reminder of why the YBA icon pricked our ears up in the first place. With simultaneous surveys by Hirst, Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois, London’s air is pulsating with pungent, visceral animalism, and it’s stifling. Like it or loathe it, flayed, deformed, dissected, crucified bodies (or parts of them) seem to be de rigueur-(mortis), and Hirst’s show plays a leading role. Maybe what we need is a bit of realism to feel alive, even if it is dead, and marinating in a tank. Read the full review

Exhibition: Anton Alvarez, ‘The Remnants’
Location: 100 Bishopsgate 
Dates: Until March 2023

Anton Alvarez, with work in progress for ’The Remnants’ at Brookfield Properties’ 100 Bishopsgate best london art exhibitions
Anton Alvarez, with work in progress for ’The Remnants’ at Brookfield Properties’ 100 Bishopsgate. Credit: TwobyTwo Photography

Art exhibitions in the heart of London’s corporate ‘square mile’ are rare. Rarer still are those where you can see the work being created in real-time, in full public view. At 100 Bishopsgate, Swedish-Chilean artist Anton Alvarez is presenting the fruits of a month-long studio pop-up, commissioned by Brookfield Properties. Alvarez’s vibrant clay columns debuted a new technique of grinding down old sculptures and reusing the clay, and were produced using the artist’s self-built ceramic press, ‘The Extruder’. ‘Producing the exhibition in the same place it will be shown gave me greater artistic license – by creating the works on-site I was able to go up in scale and create works that would have been impossible to transport had they been extruded somewhere else’, he says. 

Rana Begum: ‘Dappled Light’ 
Pitzhanger Manor 
until September 2022

Rana Begum, No. 1081 Mesh © Begum Studio. Photography/ Angus Mill 

At Pitzhanger Manor, artist Rana Begum’s captivating solo show is a theatrical dialogue between the artist’s colour-drenched installations and the iconic architecture of Sir John Soane. Staged both indoors and outdoors, ‘Dappled Light’ is a lesson in how art can toy with light, form and colour. Over on London City Island, Begum has installed ‘Catching Colour’ a vibrant, cloudlike public installation for The Line. 

Exhibition: Yayoi Kusama: ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms’
Location: Tate Modern
Dates: Until 12 June 2022

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled with the Brilliance of Life 2011/2017 Tate Presented by the artist, Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro 2015, accessioned 2019 © YAYOI KUSAMA Photo © Tate (Joe Humphrys)
Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room Filled with the Brilliance of Life, 2011/2017, Tate, presented by the artist, Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro 2015, accessioned 2019 © YAYOI KUSAMA Photo © Tate (Joe Humphrys)

On the post-lockdown London art scene, there seems to be a recurring theme: immersion. These include Ryoji Ikeda’s sensory ambush at 180 The Strand, and Es Devlin’s recent Forest for Change at Somerset House for London Design Biennale. But Tate Modern is hosting the piece of work that arguably redefined the role of immersion in contemporary art: Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms’. The year-long show will comprise two of the artist’s acclaimed mirror room installations in a dizzying marriage of mirrors, light and water, which offers the illusion of limitless space. Also on view is The Universe as Seen from the Stairway to Heaven, 2021, Kusama’s brand new ’peep in’ sculpture, which has been created specifically for the show. At 92, Kusama remains a prolific force: the artist currently has a simultaneous shows at Victoria Miro, London, the New York Botanical Garden, and a major retrospective at Gropius Bau in Berlin. She has also recently collaborated with brands such as Veuve Clicquot, which involved a striking sculptural intervention on the French Champagne house’s premium cuvée, La Grande Dame. 

Art exhibitions around the UK...

Exhibition: Sheila Hicks: ‘Off Grid’
Location: The Hepworth Wakefield
Dates: until 25 September 2022

 Tom Bird / Courtesy The Hepworth Wakefield
Sheila Hicks: ’Off Grid’ The Hepworth Wakefield, until 25 September 2022 Installation. Image Credit: Tom Bird / Courtesy The Hepworth Wakefield

American Fiber art icon Sheila Hicks’ much-anticipated show at The Hepworth Wakefield is a career-spanning celebration of voluminous form and vibrant colour. ‘Off Grid’ traces Hicks’ prolific output, from the 1950s to new site-specific commissions, spanning intimate woven images to towering installations. At 87, Hicks remains famously adamant about looking forwards and even now, her sculptural works are adapted for the space. Read Jessica Klingelfuss’ full review of the show. 

Exhibition: Robbie Lawrence: ‘Northern Diary’
Location: Stills Centre for Photography, Edinburgh
Dates: until 25 June 2022 

Waves at Dunbar, Northern Diary, © Robbie Lawrence / WEBBER and courtesy Stills
Waves at Dunbar, Northern Diary, © Robbie Lawrence / WEBBER and courtesy Stills 

Robbie Lawerence’s Northern Diary is a heartfelt story of life in Scotland in the years since Brexit. Across cities, the countryside and the coast, the Scottish photographer conveys a humanist connection to everyday life and landscapes in what marks be his first UK institutional solo exhibition. While Lawerence’s signature rich tones contrast against the intense social and political environments the work draws on. Alongside a new short film titled Blue Bonnets is Lawerence’s A Voice Above The Linn, a moving series on botanist and climate activist Jim Taggart.

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